Why does my band look sloppy onstage?

We spend a lot of time practicing how to rehearse, but not a lot of time on how to perform.

You’re at festival with your band and as you walk onstage you wonder: why Ethan in the 3rd clarinets is shuffling his music around? why are the trombones always the last to stand for the conductor? why did the percussionist just drop something? why does Emily always wear white socks with black pants and shoes?

We’ve all had these thoughts. Which would be fine if they were one offs - but these are recurring problems, that happen over and over again at performances with ensembles across the country. And they are completely avoidable.

In educational settings, and often in community settings too, we perform because we rehearse. The ratio of rehearsals to performances is large. The New York Philharmonic, on the other hand, rehearses because they perform. Sometimes the duration of their calls can even be less than the duration of the entire performance.

What happens when our rehearsal time so vastly exceeds our performance time? Naturally our performances are spaced far apart. Often months apart. The result? Our students rarely get the opportunity to practice performing. We spend a lot of time practicing how to rehearse, but not a lot of time on how to perform. So come concert day, we get white socks, missing music, sloppy stage craft and a grumpy conductor. Luckily, the fix is pretty easy and only requires some of that rehearsal time.

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